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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:The Hope of the hopeless
Text:Mark 5:21-43 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 97:1-3
Hymn 7:9 (after law)
Psalm 27:1,2,6
Psalm 31:1,2,14,15
Hymn 22 (after offertory)
Psalm 91:1,4,5

Reading:  Mark 5:21-43
Text:  Mark 5:21-43
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,


The passage we’re looking at today contains two stories.  One is the healing of the daughter of a synagogue ruler and the other is the healing of a woman with a gynecological disorder.  But when one looks closer, there are a lot of connections between these two stories.  The woman had her disorder for 12 years; the daughter of Jairus was 12 years old.  Both were healed through contact with Christ.  A 12 year old girl was considered by the Jews to be old enough to get married, hence she was also technically a woman.  But one of the most remarkable similarities between these accounts is the way the Lord Jesus brings people from fear to faith, the way in which he is revealed as the Hope of the hopeless. 


Fear is something everybody knows about.  Everyone is afraid of something, even if we can’t admit it or talk about it openly.  We’ve had our anxious moments, moments of worry and trepidation.  And we’ve all been in situations where things seem to be hopeless, maybe you’re even in such a situation right now.  In this passage, the Lord Jesus brings people like you from fear to faith.  He stretches out his hand and offers the assurance that things can and will be different.  Jesus Christ is the Hope of the hopeless.


In the first part of chapter 5, the Lord Jesus had been on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.  He healed a man who had been unclean three times over.  The Gerasene demoniac was unclean because he lived among the tombs, because he was a Gentile and because he had an unclean spirit.  The Lord Jesus delivered him and restored him.  Now in verse 21, he crosses back over the Sea of Galilee, back to the Jewish western side.  As soon as he gets out of the boat, the crowds meet him again.


Among the crowds is a man named Jairus.  Jairus was a synagogue ruler, a man who took care of some of the arrangements each Sabbath for the synagogue services.  He would have been a man of some social and religious standing.  Now keep in mind that in chapter 3, Mark tells us about a time that Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath.  He did this in a synagogue – perhaps even the synagogue where Jairus was a ruler.  The result was that after Jesus healed this man, we’re told “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”  For people normally associated with the religious leadership of the Jews, Jesus was the enemy.  He had to be done away with.  For Jairus to come to Jesus, then, would have been quite a step.  Then for him to fall at his feet – something must have been seriously wrong.


What drove him to this was the love for his daughter who was back home sick in bed and dying.  He pleaded earnestly with Jesus to come and lay his hands on her so that she could be delivered and live.  In the first part of chapter 5, everyone was begging and pleading earnestly with Jesus too.  That was a recognition that he is Lord everywhere and over everyone.  Here too, a Jewish synagogue ruler lays himself at the feet of Jesus and recognizes that he is Lord.  Christ is the one to whom people go and beg and plead with earnestly, because he is the Master who has power to heal and help. 


Throughout his ministry on earth, the Lord Jesus turned the expectations of people upside down.  They wanted a Messiah to be one thing and he came and did and said things completely different.  Turning everything upside down.  But here we see a clear instance of the Lord Jesus turning things right side up.  Like so many of the other characters in Mark, Jairus was not your garden-variety person in the Roman empire.  He was Jewish, he was a child of the covenant, circumcised on the eighth day.  As such a person, his place was at the feet of Jesus.  As a son of Abraham, he was to be looking for Israel’s hope and expectation in the Messiah.  He was called to be a faithful servant of Jesus, looking to him as his Lord and master. 


The same holds true for all covenant people today as well.  We’ve all received the sign and seal of God’s covenant in baptism.  He has claimed us for his own.  With his Word he calls us again to fall at the feet of the Lord Jesus and live in recognition of his Lordship.  Not because of desperation, like Jairus, but because of the gospel, because of gratitude and love for Christ, recognizing that he has bought us with his blood to be his very own.  Because having being brought into his wonderful light, we eagerly desire to make much of him with everything in our being and everything in our lives.        


However, it was desperation that seems to have brought Jairus to Jesus.  Whatever the motive may have been, Jesus agrees to go with him and they set off for his house.  The large crowd continues to follow and press around him.  This is where we’re introduced to the nameless woman with the menstrual disorder.  Like Jairus, she too was a child of God’s covenant.  But she was a tragically broken child.


Mark tells us that she had been bleeding for twelve long years.  Because she was Jewish, the Old Testament laws of clean and unclean applied to her.  According to Leviticus 15, as long as she had that flow of blood, she was considered to be unclean.  That meant that she was only allowed limited human contact.  Anything and anyone she touched would become unclean too.  Moreover, her condition would have prevented her from being able to worship God at the temple in Jerusalem or in the synagogues.  She was locked out from the religious life of God’s people.  Her disease was a picture of sin and death and God who could have nothing to do with it.  So, this woman suffered not only physically, but also spiritually.  She was in rough shape. 

And all the doctors that she’d been to over the years only made things worse.  She spent all her money on these treatments and had nothing to show for it, except increased pain and discomfort.  Her situation was desperate and from a human perspective, also hopeless.  Who could help her and set her free, and also set her free to worship God with his people? 


She heard about Jesus.  She thought to herself, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  That may sound like a confident statement.  But this is an instance where the original Greek tells us differently.  This woman was not confident; in fact, she was repeating this to herself over and over again, trying to muster up the courage to go and touch his clothes.  Even then, if she managed to touch his clothes, she wasn’t sure if that was going to be the end of her problems.  There’s actually a great deal of doubt in this woman’s mind, you might even say that whatever faith is there is mixed with a lot of doubt and fear.  After all, by touching Jesus she would be making him unclean and she could be exposed as a law-breaker and punished accordingly.  So, in her fear, she wavers. 


But at a certain point, she finds the courage to reach out and touch his cloak from behind.  Instantaneously, she was healed.  Her bleeding stopped and she was freed from her suffering; literally, freed from her lashings or whippings.


Just as suddenly, the Lord Jesus realized what had happened.  He realized that healing power had gone out from him and so he turned around and asked who touched him.  You can imagine Jairus nearby, getting jumpy, “Come on, let’s get a move on, my daughter is dying.”  But Jesus stops and interrupts the journey to the Jairus household.  His disciples thought his question was odd – after all, there’s a huge crowd thronging him from every direction.  There were all kinds of people touching him.  What’s he talking about?


Jesus kept looking around and then his eyes fell on the woman.  She reacted immediately and like Jairus, she too fell at his feet, finding the proper place and posture for a covenant child before the Lord.  And notice that she’s trembling with fear.  What is she afraid of?  Again, she touched someone and as an unclean person, she’s simply not allowed to do that and if she does, she makes that person unclean.  Now she could be exposed and publicly humiliated.  She pre-empts this humiliation by quickly telling the whole truth of the matter to the Lord Jesus.


His response is gentle and compassionate.  He addresses her as “Daughter” – this is the only place in the Bible where Jesus addresses a woman like this.  It’s a term of compassion and affection.  Yes, he is the Lord before whom all who love him fall at his feet, but he is also the one who said in Matthew 11, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  With this one word “Daughter,” he sets aside her fears and turns her to himself to see his loving care for her. 


Then he adds, “Your faith has healed you.”  Power went out from him to heal her, but it was her faith that created a pathway for that power.  Faith is the instrument by which we receive all the benefits of Christ.  Now the amazing thing in this story is that this woman’s faith was so weak and so mixed with doubt and fear.  She was not a woman of great faith, but one who struggled.  Yet, it was this little, mixed-up, doubting faith which Jesus says healed her.  Loved ones, take note.  In Matthew 17:20, the Lord Jesus spoke about the power of a faith as small as a mustard seed.  Even that faith can move mountains.  It’s not about the size or quantity of your faith, it’s not about whether your faith is mixed with doubts, fears, anxieties or even depression.  Because we’re weak and sinful, faith is never 100%.  According to Christ, it does not have to be.  Even a tiny, weak, struggling faith has access to all the benefits and blessings of Christ.  He tells us that to awaken in us again a sense of wonderment that our salvation really is all of grace.


Christ not only affirms her faith, but he also gives her a benediction:  go in peace.  In other words, “You’re whole again.  You are not a law-breaker, you have nothing to fear from the law of God.”  And to confirm that she was indeed permanently healed, he says that she was freed from her suffering – he says this publicly so that all around can know it too.  She’s been freed by Christ from the stigma of being unclean.  She’s now free to worship God and to commune with his people in the temple and synagogue.  Christ has restored her life to the way it’s supposed to be, the way he works in all who believe in him.  He’s the one who restores life and communion for the hopeless.


In our sin, all of us are hopelessly unclean before God.  Isaiah 64:6 said it most pointedly, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  Virtually all our English translations have sanitized that passage to make it more palatable. There is a connection between Isaiah 64:6 and this woman with the menstrual disorder in Mark 5.  Let me just say that the woman in Mark 5 would have had a lot of unclean, filthy rags.  God views sinners apart from Christ in the same way we regard such things as filthy and disgusting.  And like our Bible translations have sanitized Isaiah 64:6, so often we also sanitize our sin and domesticate it, making it more palatable and acceptable.  Why are we so little disgusted by sin?  Why do we find it so difficult to hate it?  I would suggest that it may be partly because we are too little impressed by the holiness of God.  We often fail to recognize that the heinousness of sin lies in the greatness of the Person sinned against.  And consequently we don’t grasp, or perhaps we forget, the depth of what Jesus Christ did to redeem sinners.  Listen:  left to ourselves all we are like that unclean woman, barred from communion with the holy God, we are hopelessly unclean unless Christ washes us with his blood and makes us clean and gives us his benediction of peace.  In order to hate sin and wage war against it and kill it in our lives, we need a clear picture of where God stands with respect to sin and what he’s done about it in Jesus Christ.  God gives us that picture here in Mark 5.  Sin is disgustingly ugly and produces devastation.  Jesus Christ gives hope and healing.


But in Mark 5 that hope and healing seems to have come too late for the daughter of Jairus.  Some men came from his house and told him that his daughter had died and that he should now just leave the rabbi alone – after all, dead is dead.  Jesus healed a great many people, but who ever heard of someone being raised from the dead?  The situation was hopeless, the girl was dead, and life goes on.


The Lord Jesus heard what they said and then turned to Jairus and told him, “Do not fear, only believe.”  Here again, we see fear and faith.  What is Jairus afraid of?  It’s fair to say that he’s afraid that he’s lost his only daughter (in the parallel passage, Luke tells us that it was his only daughter).  He’s afraid that he’ll never get to see his daughter get married and have children.  He’s afraid that her short life is over.  Children are not supposed to die before their parents – that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  But yet we could understand that he’s afraid that’s the way it is in this case.  Christ tells him to put his fears aside and only believe.  Believe that Christ has power, not only over the uncleanness which is a picture of sin, but also over death which is a consequence of sin.  Have faith that he is the resurrection and the life and that with him, even death is not a hopeless situation. 


At this point, Christ wouldn’t let anyone follow him except his closest disciples, Peter, James and John.  They came to the home and there they saw the huge commotion that would have accompanied death in that time and culture.  People were wailing and crying loudly.  From Matthew’s parallel passage we learn that among them were professional mourners.  We find that odd, perhaps even a bit amusing, but in those days when someone died, the family would hire people who would come and lead the mourning, making it easier for the family to express their grief.  They were professional mourners and they would also bring music to accompany the mourning.


When Jesus arrived, he said, “Why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead, but asleep.”  What he meant was that death was not going to have the final say – life was going to triumph.  The death was real, but only temporary.  But those who heard him, didn’t get it.  They thought that he really believed that the girl still had a heartbeat and that she was still breathing.  So, they laughed at him, as if he’d told a joke.  The professional mourners did mourning for a living and they could easily turn from mourning to joking – this was just a job for them.  Note here the humiliation that Jesus experienced in his life on earth.  People weren’t taking him seriously, people laughed at him.  This too is part of what he willingly endured for our salvation.  He would be mocked and scorned right up to the cross.


Verse 40 relates that he sent everyone out of the house and then went into the room where the girl was laying.  Here the theme of unclean reappears, because a dead body was unclean and made everything and everyone around it unclean.  But the Lord Jesus is not afraid of the uncleanness.  He confronts it and overcomes it.  He gently takes the girl by the hand, the clean touching the unclean.  He says to her in Aramaic, “Talitha koum,” which literally means, “Little lamb, arise” or as one commentator colloquially put it, “Get up, kid.”  And get up she does and begins walking around. 


The result is that those who were in the room, and here we can think especially of her parents, were amazed beyond words.  She was dead, they thought that they’d lost their only daughter, that it was hopeless.  But now she was back.  Any parent can imagine their joy.  Jairus had faith in the Lord Jesus and life was restored. 


As wonderful as this was, and as beautiful a picture of our redemption as it is, it remains in a sense incomplete.  The truth is, Jairus’ daughter eventually did die, again, for good.  So did Jairus and his wife.  So did the woman from earlier in the chapter.  Death came to them all.  And so it will with us, unless the Lord Jesus comes back first.  We all have to face the last enemy, death.  As Christians we can talk about it openly.  We don’t face death with hopelessness, because Christ is our hope and he has overcome death in his resurrection.  This text shows us Christ who overcomes death and in so doing it speaks prophetically about his resurrection.  Nevertheless in this age, we still die.  Therefore, we’re encouraged to look forward to and to pray for the age to come.  When Christ returns, all the dead will be raised, and all who believe in him will see the reunification of their bodies and souls and then we’ll see the perfect fulfillment of all that Christ came to do.  Then grief will be totally out of the picture.  I think you’ll agree that’s something to look forward to.


The last verse says that Christ gave strict orders to keep the miracle quiet.  In the first chapters of Mark, he gives this sort of command more often, reflecting his understanding of the timing of his work.  There was a time for publicity and that especially involved his preaching, and then there was also a time for keeping things quiet and that usually involved his healings.  Then finally, we get a glimpse into his concern and compassion again as he tells the parents to give the girl some food.  At their excitement in having their daughter back, they could have forgotten about her physical needs.  But the Lord Jesus would not forget, he cares for the entire person.  Here’s our Saviour again with tender concern for the people of God. 


In this text, we see our Saviour revealed as the Lord who restores life, who gives hope to the hopeless, who leads people from fear to faith.  We see Christ as the Redeemer who brings healing and restoration to a broken, messy world.  Loved ones, continue looking to him, for he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   


Let us pray:


Lord God of life and hope,


We adore you again for Jesus Christ, our Saviour.  We thank you that through him, you’ve brought hope to the hopeless, healing for the diseased, wholeness to the broken.  Father, we confess that we need that hope, healing and wholeness and we thank you for providing it.  Lead us from our fears to faith.  Lord Jesus, thank you for the compassion you showed to that woman and to Jairus and his family, thank you for the compassion and mercy you have for us.  Lord God, help us to continue looking to Christ our only hope.  Please help us in our struggles and difficulties to continue fixing our eyes on the only Saviour.  Father, we also pray for the opening of the final act in the drama of our redemption.  We see death as an ongoing reality around us and we call out to you for the return of our Lord Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.  Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.  In his name, AMEN.   

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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